Perched on the Girgenti Hill, the historic center of Agrigento welcomes visitors with a fascinating mix of courtyards, small squares, and narrow alleys that invite for an unforgettable walk through the wonders of history. Although the urban layout is clearly Arab, the oldest architectural evidence of Agrigento’s historic center dates back to the Norman period. The Cathedral, located at the top of the historic center, was founded at the end of the 11th century by Gerlando of Besançon, the first Norman bishop after two and a half centuries of Muslim domination. Gerlando, much loved by the population, later became the city’s patron saint. Even today, his name is invoked by the people of Agrigento to defend against natural calamities. Over the centuries following its construction, the Cathedral was enlarged and renovated several times and today presents visitors with an admirable fusion of different styles, from medieval austerity to lively baroque decorations. The Renaissance-era sober facade is preceded by a broad staircase and flanked by a massive 15th-century bell tower. Inside the Cathedral, it is possible to admire several interesting chapels such as the one dedicated to San Gerlando, with the silver urn destined for the Saint’s remains, the Hall of Roman sarcophagi that amazed Grand Tour travelers, precious paintings, frescoes, baroque stuccoes, enchanting wooden ceilings, and the two towers that still guard some mysteries.
Next to the Cathedral is the 18th-century Lucchesiana Library, which preserves numerous ancient and valuable volumes, and the MUDIA – Diocesan Museum, which houses a collection of sacred art of great value, including paintings, sculptures, sacred furnishings, liturgical vestments, and goldsmith’s objects, ranging from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. In the MUDIA, you can also admire remains of 14th and 15th-century frescoes as well as ancient reliquaries found during the numerous restoration works of the Cathedral.
A few steps from the Diocesan Museum, stands the delightful Church of Santa Maria dei Greci, so called because it was originally of Greek Orthodox rite. What makes this church an essential stop in the visit to the historic center is the fact that it was built in the Middle Ages on the ruins of a Greek temple: the Temple of Athena, dating back to the 6th century BC. A narrow underground passage allows direct admiration of the remains of the temple’s base, while portions of the colonnade are still visible, albeit incorporated into the church’s internal walls.
From the main street of the historic center, Via Atenea, it is easy to reach another must-see stop in the historic center: the Monastery of Santo Spirito, built in 1299 by the noble Chiaramonte family, and for centuries the most important building in the city. The refined pointed arches and elegant twin windows overlooking the cloister garden leave visitors speechless. On the first floor of the majestic building, the Civic Museum has been set up, which hosts an interesting exhibition of stone and ceramic materials, from antiquity to the Middle Ages. Adjacent to the Monastery, the Church of Santo Spirito offers visitors one of the most significant examples of Baroque art in Sicily: despite the very simple facade, inside the church, you can admire the stunning stuccoes by Giacomo Serpotta, one of the greatest sculptors of the Baroque period.
Continuing along Via Atenea, flanked by restaurants, bars, and cafes, another must-see stop is the Church of San Lorenzo: the elegant facade preludes the magnificent Baroque statues housed inside, depicting the seven virtues, also works of Serpotta. A few steps from the Church of San Lorenzo, there is the Museum of the Filippini: an imposing monumental complex from the beginning of the 18th century, former College of the Filippini Fathers, and today a museum that houses valuable paintings, drawings, and works from a period ranging from the 14th to the 20th century belonging to the Municipal Art Gallery.
A few steps from the Museum of the Filippini, here is another not-to-be-missed attraction: the beautiful Pirandello Theater, named after the famous Agrigento playwright Luigi Pirandello, Nobel Prize in Literature in 1934. The theater is accessed through the atrium of Palazzo dei Giganti, the seat of the Municipality of Agrigento. Inaugurated in 1880, the theater features a horseshoe-shaped architecture with three tiers of boxes and a majestic gallery. The richly decorated hall and the elegant ceiling are entirely made of wood, as are the boxes that surround it. The Pirandello Theater is a building of great historical and cultural value and recalls, in a smaller scale, the famous Sicilian theaters of the late 19th century, such as the Teatro Massimo in Palermo.
Immersing oneself in the art and culture of the historic center of Agrigento is an enchanting and surprising experience, a journey through the centuries that is revealed through the timeless beauty of its churches, its monuments, and the poetic suggestion of its most intimate views. A treasure trove to be explored slowly to discover the thousand facets of a fascinating, complex, millennial history.
Discover all the information you need by clicking on the icons on the map: history of the monuments, opening hours, tickets, contacts, parking, and calculate route.
To reach the sites of interest, you can walk or use the convenient electric bus, Mudibus.
The coordinates below identify the Duomo Street: go to the map and click on one of the Parking icons to leave your car and calculate the route to the monuments.
We recommend reaching the sites of interest on foot or using the convenient electric bus, Mudibus.
N 37° 18' 48.42''
E 13° 34' 42.57''